Vice TV in North Korea
Posted by simon c on 2008 March 21日 Friday
Yes, North Korea is a decrepit hermit kingdom, and there are countless travelogues all showing the same photos and stories because the only way to see North Korea is via their government’s regimented tours. This Vice TV documentary is no different, but the presenter Shane Smith makes things interesting in his gung ho ways (gonzo journalism) and these are moving pictures! (Often shot under duress, as the guards kept on telling them to stop filming and threatening them NK jail time. Now, there aren’t many other things that rank lower on normal people’s todo lists.)
Just getting into North Korea turned out to be an incredibly bizarre ordeal, as reported by Smith:
A BRIEF NOTE FROM SHANE SMITH ON THE BYZANTINE NORTH KOREAN VISA PROCESS
Getting into North Korea was one of the hardest and weirdest processes VBS has ever dealt with. After we went back and forth with their representatives for months, they finally said they were going to allow 16 journalists into the country to cover the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Then, ten days before we were supposed to go, they said, “No, nobody can come.” Then they said, “OK, OK, you can come. But only as tourists.” We had no idea what that was supposed to mean. They already knew we were journalists, and over there if you get caught being a journalist when you’re supposed to be a tourist you go to jail. We don’t like jail. And we’re willing to bet we’d hate jail in North Korea.
But we went for it. The first leg of the trip was a flight into northern China. At the airport the North Korean consulate took our passports and all of our money, then brought us to a restaurant. We were sitting there with our tour group, and suddenly all the other diners left and these women came out and started singing North Korean nationalist songs. We were thinking, “Look, we were just on a plane for 20 hours. We’re jet-lagged. Can we just go to bed?” but this guy with our group who was from the LA Times told us, “Everyone in here besides us is secret police. If you don’t act excited then you’re not going to get your visa.” So we got drunk and jumped up onstage and sang songs with the girls. The next day we got our visas. A lot of people we had gone with didn’t get theirs. That was our first hint at just what a freaky, freaky trip we were embarking on…
If this doesn’t whet your Nork appetite, nothing will 😀
All 14 episodes are online now. Thanks EWC for introducing this program.